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Haunted house volunteers win community service award

Skeletons, fanged clowns and other scary sites get the attention at Circus of Screams, but volunteers working behind the scenes are the ones who make the annual haunted house in Eagle Point a success.

This week, the Jackson County Board of Commissioners gave its February Community Service Award to volunteers Julie Ball and Ron Savage during a videoconference meeting. Along with other community members, the two work nearly year round on the haunted house. They’ve already held meetings to craft plans for the next eight-night Circus of Screams coming months from now in October.

Ball said she appreciated the award and recognition for volunteers who put in countless hours on the haunted house.

Every year, volunteers spend months repairing, repainting and redesigning the haunted house to create a new experience for those who come through its doors in October.

“It’s an incredibly extensive process,” said Julian Cordle, a Medford Parks and Recreation commissioner who is involved in youth sports and the haunted house preparations.

The haunted house provides frightful fun every Halloween season for thousands, while also raising money for youth sports and other causes.

Launched in 2007, Circus of Screams has donated more than $277,000 to local groups and collected over 51,000 pounds of food for ACCESS and the Maslow Project, which helps homeless youth and their families. Volunteers at the haunted house take in money for admission plus food donations. Guests get a discount if they bring a can of food.

Ball and Savage recruit, organize and train dozens of local young people, most of whom are high school athletes, to volunteer as actors in the Circus of Screams. The teens learn job-related skills such as customer service, while also raising money for team uniforms, travel expenses and other needs in the community.

Jackson County Commissioner Rick Dyer said he took a behind-the-scenes tour of the haunted house.

“It was scary, it was fun and it was really great to see all the kids working together,” he said.

With many youth sports canceled due to COVID-19, Dyer said many young athletes feel left out and forgotten. The haunted house is a way to support them.

The pandemic required a major rethinking about how to operate Circus of Screams safely last October.

People had to register online to go through the haunted house. Volunteers sanitized touched surfaces after every guest, and everyone had to wear masks. Circus of Screams added a drive-in movie-style experience to keep households and families socially distanced and entertained while they waited for their turns.

Many customers said they appreciated the chance to go through the haunted house safely, especially at a time when many other entertainment options are shut down.

Jackson County Commissioner Colleen Roberts said it was a pleasure to recognize Ball and Savage with the award.

“Thank you for the years and years of dedication and service in what you do and for maneuvering through the challenging 2020 year and giving some sense of normalcy in life,” she said.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Vickie Aldous at valdous@rosebudmedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @VickieAldous.

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